I traveled from Kilkenny to Clonmel to Cahir to Cahel on 24 January 1998. The highlight of the 2.5-hour bus ride was listening to Irish radio which began with cheesy Irish country songs about leprechauns invading from space. Thankfully, news reports frequently interrupted the music and I got to catch up the news from home with an amusing Irish perspective. John Paul II visited with Fidel Castro in Cuba and called for an end to economic sanctions of the country. “That may get some attention in the land of the free and the home of the brave if they can divert their attention from President Bill’s wandering eye,” commented the news woman. This would be the first I’d hear about the Lewinksky Scandal. Later a male reporter summed up a story on Jerry Springer-style talk shows: “Talk shows and talk show hosts, representative of American culture? The mind boggles!”
Of course, I did not travel to Ireland to listen to the radio. My destination for the day was the Rock of Cashel. Not just any rock, but a hill of limestone outcroppings prominent among the surrounding plains. Here fifteen centuries of castles and cathedrals were built. Sadly, today they lay in ruins, but the architecture that survives is remarkable including great arches, high crosses, and carvings. The scenic setting ain’t too shabby either. I certainly overcompensated with my camera in my attempt to capture every view. Down the hill the ruins of Hore Abbey sit on the wind-swept plains. I enjoyed a few moments of majestic solitude here writing in my journal until the ink of my pen froze up in the cold.
I visited the Cashel town center and took in some lunch, a process made difficult by having to navigate with my backpack through the crowded tables of the cafeteria. I decided that none of these people would ever see me again so if they thought I looked liked an oaf, who cares? I caught the next bus to Cork where I checked into Sheila’s Tourist Hostel. One unexpected pleasure of traveling in Ireland is that the woman who checked me in had no problem spelling and pronouncing my name correctly.
The stunning Rock of Cashel.
Carved heads lined the inside of an arch leading into a small chapel. It’s believed that these heads are representations of the stone workers who built the cathedral.